Howard Jones - The 12” Album + 12”ers Vol. 2 (Cherry Red)

Howard Jones – The 12” Album + 12”ers Vol. 2 (Cherry Red)

Following on from the recent deluxe treatment of the first five Howard Jones studio albums, Cherry Red Records have now turned their attention to two compilations of 12” mixes, gathering them together into one handy 2CD set.

The first of these, The 12” Album, first appeared in the lead up to Christmas 1984, the year that had seen Jones’ hugely successful debut album Human’s Lib hit the shops and the Number 1 chart position. By the time The 12” Album was being compiled, Jones had had another big non-album hit in the shape of the early anthem to inclusion and anti-racism ‘Like To Get To Know You Well’, to follow the four Top 20 hits from Human’s Lib.

The 12” Album was seemingly designed as a very ‘up’ album, even going so far as to begin with the sound of an alarm clock going off, leading into the (then) brand new song ‘Always Asking Questions’, a song surely worthy of being a single in itself and one of Jones’ very best.  The record concentrated on the more upbeat Jones compositions; the introspective ‘Hide And Seek’ wasn’t included, for instance, whereas the energetic album track ‘Conditioning’ was reimagined in remixed form as ‘Total Conditioning’ (also beginning with the sound of an alarm clock!).

The hits certainly benefit from the remix treatment, ‘New Song’ the single that launched Jones, is probably most subtly different to the single version, with follow up hit ‘What Is Love?’ also quite faithful to the original hit, in a traditional ‘extended version’. ‘Like To Get To Know You Well’ on the other hand, really pushes the boat out, over seven minutes long and including the lyrics across several different languages to embrace the song’s subject matter. It seems more poignant (and fitting) today than ever. ‘Pearl In The Shell’ perhaps pointed the way towards album number two, breaking out from the ‘man-with-synth’ stylings of the earlier songs and bringing in brass and a broader sound palette.

The 12” Album has perhaps felt a little neglected over the years – much-loved by fans, but only given a solitary CD issue with little fanfare in 1988, so it’s good to see it available and the remaster job is a very good one indeed.

Disc 2 of the set, 12”ers Vol. 2 was originally a 1985 Japan-only release, (the following year saw a South Korean issue), and until now it hasn’t been available on CD at all. Compiled a year on from The 12” Album, material from Jones’ second studio album Dream Into Action was also available to draw on. It begins with the excellent first single from that album ‘Things Can Only Get Better’, one of two tracks here to feature the superb backing vocals of Afrodiziak (made up of Caron Wheeler, Naomi Thompson and the now sadly departed Claudia Fontaine) – the other being the jaunty ‘Life In One Day’, styled here as ‘Life In One Day, Pt. 2’ (one of the versions from the original 12” single).

An interesting inclusion is ‘You Jazzy Nork!’, actually an instrumental inspired by Dream Into Action track ‘Why Look For The Key?’ which originally appeared as a bonus track on the 12” of ‘Things Can Only Get Better’. ‘Look Mama (R.H. Version)’, named after producer Rupert Hine, extends to a full 9 minutes and allows a little experimentation. ‘Bounce Right Back’ is here in the originally intended full extended version (this version was listed on the original release, but a shorter 7“ version used in the end due to vinyl space constraints). The set is concluded with the majestic full 12” mix of the haunting ‘Hide and Seek’, coming in at 8 and a half minutes and worth every second. It’s the only Human’s Lib-era song on Disc 2, but nice to see it included to give the set a sense of completeness and means that all of the first eight hits make an appearance across the package.

If you are a fan of the ‘traditional’ 12” version, i.e. a longer version of a song that doesn’t mess around with the original premise of the track too much, then this set has some prime examples of what was arguably the golden era of the 12” mix.

The 12” Album + 12”ers Vol. 2 was released by Cherry Red Records on 18th March 2022.

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